Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson makes closing arguments to the jury Monday. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
JONESBORO — Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert Collier denied a defense motion for a directed verdict of acquittal in the state’s case against Lisa Lebis.
Lebis, 41, faces life in prison without parole if convicted of murder in the shooting death of Clayton County police Officer Sean Callahan. Callahan, 24, died about 14 hours after being shot Dec. 17, 2012, by Lebis’ husband, Tremaine Lebis, who was shot and killed by Officer Waymando Brown.
Lisa Lebis is being charged as a party to her husband’s crime, along with 15 other counts including obstruction of an officer, possession of firearms and dangerous weapons by a convicted felon, disorderly conduct and theft by receiving stolen property.
At press time Tuesday, the jury was deliberating Lebis’ fate ahead of a pending snow and ice storm. Callahan’s family, which has attended every day of the trial, lives in Kennesaw and already had a couple inches of snow by Tuesday morning.
Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said the family decided to not risk getting on the roads to hear the verdict in person but got permission to allow them to watch the announcement through computer video.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Kenneth Ellis told jurors that Lisa Lebis was innocent of all charges. Ellis argued that she should not be held responsible for the actions of her husband.
“There’s been more said about Tremaine Lebis and what he did during this trial than Lisa Lebis and what she did,” he said.
After the state closed its case Friday, Ellis asked for a directed verdict of acquittal but Collier denied the motion, ruling there is enough evidence to let a jury decide her fate.
In her closing argument Monday, Lawson said Lisa Lebis is herself lucky to be alive.
“Waymando Brown is probably the only officer in the world who wouldn’t have shot at her,” she said.
Testimony showed that Lebis ignored the commands of police officers at the scene and impeded the attempted lifesaving efforts of Brown on Callahan.
Lawson reminded jurors that Lebis lied about being pregnant and about her husband having a weapon.
Brown and Callahan responded to Motel 6 in Stockbridge Dec. 17, 2012, in response to workers who said Lisa Lebis screamed and cursed at them, and they feared for their safety. When the officers saw that there was damage done to the room the couple had shared for eight days, they decided to arrest them for criminal damage to property.
But Tremaine Lebis, 41, who had served nearly 20 years in state prison for shooting a man in the head in 1992, declared he would never return to jail and ran from officers. The officers didn’t know he had a modified handgun in a concealed fanny pack but his wife did, Lawson argued.
Tremaine Lebis led officers around the back of Building 500, down a 3.3-feet wide path bordered by the wall and an embankment. Midway past the building, Lebis reached for the gun, got on one knee and fired, using a laser sight, at Callahan’s head and neck area, Brown testified.
One round hit Callahan’s shoulder in two places before entering his neck near the nape, causing massive internal injuries, a medical examiner testified. Callahan fired four rounds before getting hit and Brown returned fire at Lebis, killing him instantly
Brown immediately began rendering first aid and CPR but Lisa Lebis confronted him, screaming and cursing at him, apparently oblivious to her own dead husband just yards away on the ground.
Lawson said the couple, both convicted felons who weren’t supposed to possess weapons, had agreed to an escape plan if police arrived. Tremaine Lebis was on parole and had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, his wife told police after the shooting.
Lawson said the plan included running behind Building 500 and following a path to a 500-plus mobile home park behind the motel. Lawson told jurors the couple would then call Lisa Lebis’ son, Michael Davis, to pick them up.
After the shooting, police searched the motel room and found a cache of weapons and ammunition. Callahan is the first Clayton County police officer to die by gunfire in the line of duty.
Lisa Lebis has four felony convictions and is eligible for a sentence without parole under Georgia’s “three strikes” law. Ellis turned down an offer from the state prior to trial that would allow Lisa Lebis to plead to all charges except murder and serve 25 years in prison.